Fame

Fame

2009, PG, 107 min. Directed by Kevin Tancharoen. Starring Debbie Allen, Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, Kristy Flores, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill, Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Collins Pennie, Walter Perez, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Asher Book.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Oct. 2, 2009

There’s a terrific story from an episode of This American Life called “Fiasco!,” in which Jack Hitt recounts a fantastically troubled high school production of Peter Pan and the moment when the switch is flipped for the audience and their polite, perfunctory support and nervous titters at every stage mishap devolve into all-out anarchy: a howling, heckling spectator sport. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that happens in Fame – that moment when its not-unpromising start completely upends into a laughable train wreck – but it’s not an unpleasurable experience, at least not if you’ve a soft spot for teen dance films from Center Stage to all things Step and Stomp. For me, for a movie to bomb, there has to be bad will there, some kind of an anti-humanist undercurrent, but there’s none of that here: This “reinventing” of the original 1980s button-pushing saga of creative teens enrolled at the New York City High School of Performing Arts is a sweet, sloppy mess. Actually, another prerequisite for a movie to bomb is for it to actually be movielike; this redo bears closer resemblance to a series of music videos strung along in a row, with only the occasional bracketing conversation. As in the original, the story is told from freshman year to senior: In brief, we meet the freshmen actors, dancers, and musicians we’ll follow through high school. The opening montage is a jazzy, grabby thing, artfully layering the kids’ auditions to mimic the frenzied pace of the day. But that freneticism never really goes away, nor does the staccato timing. Storylines to the half-dozen or so leads are piecemealed out so that every kid has, more or less, a beat a year, which means a fiery breakup in junior year is revisited, minutes later, in senior year, as if all time stood still. Indeed, in the mouths of some of the jejune cast’s most wooden performers, it almost does just that.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Kevin Tancharoen Films
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
They're on TV. They're on tour. And now they're onscreen in a concert film recorded during their summer tour.

Kimberley Jones, Aug. 19, 2011

More by Kimberley Jones
Booksmart
The kids are better than alright in Olivia Wilde's raucous, resonant comedy

May 24, 2019

The Biggest Little Farm
Country life documentary may be an extended infomercial, but that can't dent its charm

May 17, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Fame, Kevin Tancharoen, Debbie Allen, Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth, Kristy Flores, Paul Iacono, Paul McGill, Naturi Naughton, Kay Panabaker, Kherington Payne, Collins Pennie, Walter Perez, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Asher Book

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle